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Interrogation and TortureIntegrating Efficacy with Law and Morality$
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Steven J. Barela, Mark Fallon, Gloria Gaggioli, and Jens David Ohlin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190097523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190097523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 26 January 2022

Justifying Too Much

Justifying Too Much

Utilitarianism as a Moral Theory

(p.419) 15 Justifying Too Much
Interrogation and Torture

Bob Brecher

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, I analyze the use and abuse of utilitarianism in the torture debate, arguing that the latter might turn out to be utilitarianism's nemesis. For what the debate lays bare is that, if we are to take utilitarianism seriously, then we must be prepared to torture the alleged terrorist's child, or indeed anyone at all, to prevent the so-called imminent catastrophe. Furthermore, if that conclusion is unpalatable on rule-utilitarian grounds—in terms of the institutional and long-term consequences of such a practice—then those same sorts of consideration rule out torturing the alleged terrorist themselves. That this is systematically obscured by those who would purport to justify interrogational torture by their being highly selective about the consequences they consider, and/or by arbitrarily “modifying” the scope of utilitarianism when it generates inconvenient conclusions, again suggests that utilitarianism may be fundamentally flawed; and that its use to defend interrogational torture shows this. The argument is in four sections: a refutation of the alleged necessity of interrogational torture in “ticking bomb” cases; an analysis of utilitarian proponents' of interrogational torture properly to understand that their utilitarianism cannot accommodate non-utilitarian limits when inconvenient; third, their failure to acknowledge the implications of that for the permissibility of torturing known innocents to force others to divulge information; and, fourth, how these considerations come together to suggest that utilitarianism might not be a moral theory at all.

Keywords:   torture, interrogation, utilitarianism, moral dilemma, ticking bomb scenario

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